Or “I’m totally trying to compensate for slacking off in my down-and-gloomy moods by churning out more new content, plus I’m back to being all excited about writing.”
I’m queuing this post, but it’s essentially being made the same day as installment four. I know no shame. There may be some minor editing glitches, despite me looking it over a couple times, because my mind is presently focused on a presently top-secret project inspired by a Tumblr post (please remember, I know no shame). That should make an appearance soonish. Anyway, back to Warpt Factor!
The Spittin’ Quasar was dimly lit, and packed to capacity with aliens from all possible walks of life. It was, in every way possible, a standard asteroid-bound dive-bar. One patron, a tall, slender woman with deep orange skin, stood out among the others. She half-leaned on the bar, waiting for the Atomizer she’d ordered, when two large, rather brutish looking capsule racers approached.
“Hey there, sweetness,” said the one racer, whose badge announced his name as Thurdin. “How you feel about meeting someone who knows how to have a good time?” The woman turned, her large domed eyes fixed on both racers.
“That sounds wonderful,” she said. Her smile revealed multiple rows of serrated teeth. “Do either of you two shit-eating inbreds know someone who could point me in the right direction? I’m assuming it’s far away from here, and you.” The other racer, Vekkus, stepped closer to the woman, his fists clenched. She continued to smile, placing a long, pointed finger against his forehead. Vekkus’ eyes crossed, growing cloudy. He wobbled in place for a few seconds before slumping to the floor with a pained groan.
“What the hell?” Thurdin said, stepping back.
“Relax,” the woman said. “Let this be a lesson to you before you try chasing another skirt you just met in a bar, okay?” Thurdin looked around the room. Noting how everyone else was doing a particularly good job of not seeing what was going on, he made a hasty retreat just as the bartender placed the fresh Atomizer in front of the orange lady.
“You sure can knock these back, Miss Phi,” the bartender said, cleaning a glass with one set of his hands while preparing a drink with the other. “You’ve got a call, by the way. Sent it over to the Veep Room for you.”
“Thanks, Charles,” Phi said, offering a lazy salute. She scooped up her drink and stood up straight, towering over many of the other patrons. “You’re the last gentleman I know in the Universe. I promise I don’t just say that because you’re the only man who doesn’t want a go at this.” She patted a hand against her hips and winked. Charles shook his head, his eye-stocks bobbing as he did.
“You could scare the stars to their deaths, Phi,” Charles said. She crossed the bar, stepping gracefully up into the Veep Room. The other occupants took one look at her, then their drinks, and promptly left without a word. She strode across the room with great, stretching steps, and placed a hand on the communicator’s initiation module. A small hologram of High Chancellor Bennett Kadimova appeared, smiling mischievously.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Phi said, winking. “You look like you’re awfully cheerful. What news do you have to plague me with on my night off?” High Chancellor Kadimova eyed the Atomizer in her hand, shaking his head.
“Those things are dreadful for you, you know,” High Chancellor Kadimova said, shaking his head. “I’ll never live down telling you about my ancestry either, I see. How’s your night going, Phi? You seem thoroughly intoxicated.”
“Drunk as a Moxirian sailor on shore-leave, and it feels damn good,” Phi said, smiling. “You should’ve seen the size of the two meatheads I just scared into soiling themselves. You need to loosen up a little, gramps.” High Chancellor Kadimova arched his eyebrows, inhaling deeply so as to maximize the sigh that followed.
“Could we have a serious moment, please?” Bennett said, frowning. Phi looked at the Atomizer in her hand, clearly disappointed. She knocked back the drink quickly, and shut her eyes. A fine mist of light green gas puffed out around Phi’s body, her skin becoming a lighter orange in the process.
“There, you old fuddy-duddy,” Phi said. “I’ve sobered up for you, which by Saturnian law means you owe me at least two drinks. Now, what’s the serious business we need to talk about?”
“I’ve got an update on our little bet,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. “You’ll definitely want to hear about this.” Phi leaned closer to the hologram, her enormous eyes open wide.
“You’ve certainly grabbed my attention, old man,” Phi said. “How’s about you venture outside your comfort zone and stop by my usual stomping grounds. I may even buy you one of those disgusting sugary drinks you like so much.”
“Absolutely out of the question,” High Chancellor Driscol said from outside of the hologram. High Chancellor Kadimova turned to the side and glared.
“You owe me after how things panned out at the Academy, Maddie,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. “We’ll be seeing you shortly, Phi. Have my drink waiting, if you could be so kind. I’m certain you’ve been helping yourself to my tab already.”
Izzy walked circles in her room, ignoring the slight dizziness she was feeling. She had asked High Chancellor Kadimova to repeat himself at least five times, and made sure her definition of commandeering a ship was, in fact, the same one he had in mind. The small screen on the door sprang to life, catching Izzy’s eye. Ursula stood outside the door, rocking on her feet.
“If there’s a future Captain Izzy Warpt lurking in that room, I’d like to make her an offer of a fancy Persephonian dinner,” Ursula said, smiling at the camera. “Refined spice-beans, mudasaur filets, and some leafy stuff to pretend we’re trying to be healthy.” Izzy placed her hand against the palm reader, and the door slid open.
“Hey there, my favorite spacey space cadet,” Ursula said. “You seemed a little out-there in Intro to Terraforming, so I figured I’d check on you.”
“Thanks,” Izzy said, smiling. “That all sounds really tasty, by the way.”
“It sure is,” Ursula said. She walked past Izzy and leapt onto her bed. “I want to hear all about your secret meeting with the top brass, but I’ve got some stories to share with you.” Izzy closed the door, and turned to face Ursula.
“Oh, yeah? Did Instructor Emerson turn the lecture into something about how important it is to be responsible or something?” Izzy said, smirking. Ursula opened her mouth to reply, but stopped.
“That did happen, actually,” Ursula said, scrunching her face up. “Right! So I was heading to my second class of the day, Primers on Priming Your Weapons, and Emerson’s little boot-licker, Tristan, stopped me. All questions about you.” Ursula waggled her eyebrows at Izzy.
“Sure, great,” Izzy said, her focus elsewhere. Ursula grabbed a pillow and launched it at Izzy’s head. The pillow hit its target, but Izzy barely reacted.
“I diverted his curiosities, of course, by proving I’m the better woman to go after,” Ursula said. “Too bad he doesn’t realize I’ll rock his body like a gravity wave hitting a type-two terraformed world.” Izzy blinked, shaking her head, and stared at Ursula.
“Those images will haunt my nightmares forever,” Izzy said, still trying to shake the offending thoughts from her brain. “What was he asking about?” Ursula shrugged.
“Same stuff I was wondering about,” Ursula said. “Why my neighbor is off talking to two of the most important people in the Galactic Senate. I bet he’s got a thing for you, by the way.”
“Do you, or do you just want him to have a thing for me?” Izzy said. “Persephonians are notorious for wanting to pair people off into couples.” Ursula leaned back, her mouth agape.
“Future Captain Izzy, I am offended by that highly racist suggestion,” Ursula said. She grinned. “Even if it may be a little accurate. I don’t know. He your type?” Izzy shrugged.
“Don’t know,” Izzy said. “I was homeschooled, mostly. I don’t even know if I have a type. Besides, I’ve got my career to think about, obviously. I’ll let him work up the nerve to talk to me some more before I pass my judgment on the matter.” Ursula giggled, flopping forward onto her stomach.
“Show the enemy no mercy,” Ursula said. “If he turns out to be an asshole, you know I’ll be more than happy to help you hide the body.”
“That may be a little excessive,” Izzy said. She sat down on the bed, falling backwards carefully so she didn’t hit her head against the wall. “I’ve got a lot to think about.”
“Oh yeah? Is this about your walk with the High Chancellors?” Ursula said, turning around to face Izzy. “Because, as the old Earth saying goes, sharing is caring, and you better tell me, damn it, because I’m your best friend. I think, anyway.”
“Didn’t you say something about food?” Izzy said, smirking. “I remember mention of some really good food. Maybe you can persuade me that way?” Ursula sat up, folding her arms across her chest.
“You drive a hard bargain, Warpt,” Ursula said. “Meet me in my room in an hour. I expect all the interesting details.” Izzy nodded, yawning.
“Sure thing,” Izzy said, rolling up in the covers. “But for now, I think I’ll take a nap. If I’m not over by a reasonable time, come wake me?”
“You’re awfully demanding today, Izz,” Ursula said as she left the room. She poked her head back in the doorway, smiling. “I expect whatever secrets you’ll be sharing later to make up for your neediness.” She stuck her tongue out at Izzy, retreating from the dorm room before Izzy could respond with bed spread-related violence.
Everything was suddenly very foggy. Izzy stood in a spotlight, surrounded by shadowy figures who all seemed very upset with her.
“Isabelle Warpt, you have been found guilty of stealing a Spiral Reach Academy Ship,” said one of the shadowy people, its voice unfamiliar. “You endangered its crew, and destroyed millions of credits worth of Galactic Senate resources.”
“The only possible fitting sentence is death,” said another of the shadowy people. They all rose up, blurring together, and converged on Izzy. She fell to the floor with a thud, gasping for air.
“Well, that was hellish,” Izzy said, sitting up. She glanced at the clock, and realized it was about time for her to go to Ursula’s room. She opened the door to her room, and found herself face to face with Tristan. He offered a salute, and Izzy tried to not roll her eyes.
“Cadet Warpt,” Tristan said. “I wanted to make sure everything was all right from earlier, so I thought I’d stop by.”
“You’re not some sort of crazy stalker, are you?” Izzy said, eyeing Tristan up and down. “Or a murderer, perhaps?”
“What? No,” Tristan said. “Sorry. You’re just one of the only people I’ve really talked to since getting here.”
“At ease. Ursula and I have a dinner date planned, so I’ll be off,” Izzy said. She considered her words, and smiled. “I’ll let you sort that out for yourself. Thanks for the concern, Cadet Marquist.” She winked at Tristan, stepping around him and towards Ursula’s room. The door slid open, and closed behind her, leaving Tristan standing in the hallway alone.
“That was nice of him,” Ursula said. “Even if it’s a little weird he found your room.” Izzy cocked her head, an eyebrow raised.
“Heightened sense of smell, remember?” Ursula said. “When the door opened, I caught hints of embarrassment, awkwardness, and that White Dwarf cologne he wears. I wonder if anyone’s ever told him it smells more like lilacs and petrichor than whatever manly bullshit the packaging promised.”
“Doubtful,” Izzy said. She stared at the two heaping plates of food, her acutely aware she was salivating like a hungry dog. “Can we eat first and talk after? That looks like the tastiest food in the history of the universe.”
“You sure know how to make a lady feel special,” Ursula said, sticking her tongue out. Her stomach growled loudly, and she cringed. “Yeah, all right. Food first.” The two tucked into their meals, and Izzy nodded in approval with each bite.
“It’s like I’m eating fire,” Izzy said. “So spicy, but so good.” Ursula bowed with a flourish, nearly knocking her plate to the floor in the process.
“So, Miss Izz,” Ursula said. Izzy groaned, knowing full well what would follow.
“I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Izzy said. “So, really, I shouldn’t mention how High Chancellor Kadimova basically asked me to steal a ship and give everyone on board I was appointed its Captain.” Ursula had made the mistake of taking a drink as Izzy started speaking, and promptly spat it out all over herself.
“Well, that’s just great. I’m going to smell like tea for weeks now,” Ursula said, frowning. “Seriously, though? You’re not just making that up to throw me off, right?”
“I wish,” Izzy said. “I mean, I want to be a Captain more than anything, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. I really shouldn’t go into too much detail, just so you don’t get roped into this if things go badly. That okay with you?”
“Maybe,” Ursula said. “Don’t worry if you end up in prison, though. Of course, I’d visit you, but I’d end up facilitating your jail-break. I know people. I’m not even kidding here.”
“Well, Instructor Emerson’s having class in the shipyard tomorrow,” Izzy said. “High Chancellor Kadimova and I looked up the ships that would be docked, and only one is in need of a Captain. It’s named Lofty Albatross.”
“How about you crash here, and we can plot out your covert ship take-over?” Ursula said. Izzy smiled, finishing the rest of her dinner.
“You’re just really big on sleepovers, aren’t you?” Izzy said, smirking.
“What can I say? My parents never let it happen when I was younger,” Ursula said. “They were too afraid my brothers would start trying to date my friends and ruin my life or something. They did anyway. Oh, the horror stories I could share about that.”
The night continued, hours speeding past as Izzy and Ursula alternated between discussing how to sneak Izzy onto Lofty Albatross and assume the role of its Captain with minimal suspicion and the various woes they each experienced in their earlier teen years. Izzy quietly admitted two things to herself: that this plan could very well go off without a hitch, and that Ursula’s public school days didn’t sound particularly inviting nor enjoyable. They finally drifted off to sleep a couple hours before Ursula’s alarm went off.
They were the first students to arrive at the shipyard, and Izzy could see Instructor Emerson standing in the distance, his attention directed at the row of telepods on the opposite wall. The Lofty Albatross floated at a station situated a little closer to Izzy and Ursula than Instructor Emerson, and Izzy breathed a sigh of relief. The ship was medium, and looked like one of the old, repurposed freighter shuttles that had been used to transport sections of the earliest lunar colonies to their final destinations.
Ursula waited for Izzy to get into position by the ship, and approached Instructor Emerson with a carefully thought-up excused about what combinations of illnesses Izzy seemed to be showing, making certain she included details that would turn the instructor’s stomach sufficiently enough for him to not want to question further. Izzy looked around, and when she was certain no one was watching, she crept along the wide bridge to the Lofty Albatross’ main hatch, opened it, and sneaked in.
The ship’s interior was far more welcoming than its aged, somewhat battered outside. It didn’t take Izzy long to find the bridge. She settled herself into the Captain’s chair, and quickly pinned the Captain’s badge High Chancellor Kadimova had provided her onto her uniform. Refurbished computer equipment lined the various stations around the Lofty Albatross’ bridge, and Izzy smiled at what she could see. Everything was going fairly smoothly, and so it was only natural that she fell out of the captain’s chair when someone stepped onto the bridge.
“Yes, excuse me,” said the Cicardox. Izzy tried to avoid staring. She’d heard of Cicardox before, but was never fond of their earthly counterparts. His large, red eyes stared back at Izzy. “I’m sorry, but who are you? How did you find your way onto my ship?” Izzy stood up, adjusting her uniform as she did.
“The real question, is who are you?” Izzy said. She puffed her chest out, making sure the Captain’s badge was clearly visible.
“Name’s Professor Brannigan Everest,” said a rumbling, low rasp of a voice from behind Izzy. She turned around slowly, and found her face about waist-level with what Izzy could only assume was a real, living giant. He leaned down and saluted Izzy. His wild, dense beard brushed against the top of Izzy’s head, and she stepped back to avoid becoming entangled in it forever.
“Pleased to meet you,” Izzy said, returning the salute. “Captain Isabelle Warpt, reporting to my new ship. You can call me Izzy if you’d like.”
“Well, Izzy,” said the Cicardox, standing at attention and offering a crisp, flawless salute. “I am First Officer Fontaine deCourville. I suppose there was some mix-up, as I was made to believe I would be captaining this ship from now on. I will do my best to serve you.” Izzy turned to Fontaine and looked him over.
“You can call me Captain Warpt, I think,” Izzy said, frowning. “At least until you earn calling me Izzy. So, what’s on the agenda, gents? Is this all we’ve got?”
“Aye, ma’am,” Professor Everest said. “Grumpy there takes care of the technical things, and I’m the ship’s muscle. Everyone else moved on to other vessels, sadly.” Fontaine chirped, his mandibles clenched tightly.
“I believe we are to await instructions once the new Captain, which I believe means you, arrives,” Fontaine said. Brannigan leaned down, cupping an enormous hand to Izzy’s ear.
“Get used to that infernal chirping,” Brannigan said in hushed tones. “Happens when he gets pissy, and he certainly gets pissy enough.” Fontaine raised two of his six limbs in protest, but was interrupted by an incoming transmission.
“Oh, good,” Izzy said, sitting back down in the Captain’s chair. “Activate the main comm-screen, or something.” Fontaine looked past Izzy to Brannigan.
“Do as Captain Izzy says,” Brannigan said, pointing to the screen. Izzy glanced up at his arm, and saw muscles she didn’t even realize existed. Fontaine scowled, skittering over to the one set of controls. The viewing screen sprang to life.
“Oh, thank God. Someone answered. Chief Medical Officer Melissa Carter of the Orbital Fortress Yggdrasil,” CMO Carter said. Izzy suppressed a smile. Melissa Carter was one of the first Earthlings she’d seen since joining Spiral Reach.
“What can we do for you, Carter?” Izzy said, trying her best to sound official.
“We received a distress call from Rigel Six,” CMO Carter said, the transmission cutting out briefly. “Standard rescue mission, but things have gone sour. Need back-up desperately. Can’t talk long. Please send help.” An explosion knocked Melissa Carter off balance, and the transmission ended abruptly. Fontaine stared at the screen, his mandibles open wide.
“Orders, Captain?” Fontaine said, a hint of worry to his voice. “Perhaps we should notify the Spiral Reach Black Guard so they can rectify this situation, if I may be so bold as to suggest a proper course of action.”
“Set a course for Rigel Six immediately,” Izzy said, standing up and pointing ahead. “We’ve got us some fellow Spiral Reach explorers to save!”